National Editor Tom Karst Americans haven't quite picked up on the wisdom of waste not, want not.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Aug. 20 issued updated food availability (per capita consumption) numbers for various food groups.The data includes preliminary loss-adjusted per capita data through 2010.
The USDA's "loss-adjusted" food availability is of particular note, and the topic of the data relates to a recent report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council headlined "America trashes forty percent of food supply." The 26-page issue paper can be found here.
From the press release:
NRDC’s issue brief – Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm To Fork to Landfill – analyzes the latest case studies and government data on the causes and extent of food losses at every level of the U.S. food supply chain. It also provides examples and recommendations for reducing this waste. Key findings include:
- Americans trash 40 percent of our food supply every year, valued at about $165 billion;
- The average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food;
- Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills;
- Just a 15 percent reduction in losses in the U.S. food supply would save enough food to feed 25 million Americans annually;
- There has been a 50 percent jump in U.S. food waste since the 1970s.
The causes of losses in our food system are complex, but there are notable problem areas. At the retail level, grocery stores and other sellers are losing as much as $15 billion annually in unsold fruits and vegetables alone, with about half of the nationwide supply going uneaten. In fact, fresh produce is lost more than any other food product — including seafood, meat, grains and dairy — at nearly every stage in the supply chain. Some of this is avoidable. For instance, retailers can stop the practice of unnecessary abundance in their produce displays, which inherently leads to food spoilage.
So the unnecessary abundance of produce displays is one of the problems? I've never heard that one before.
Written by Dana Gunders, the report's source data appears to rely on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. According to the FAO, 20% of fruits and vegetables produced in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia are lost at the production level, 3% in post-harvest handling and storage, 1% in process and packaging, 12% at retail and a whopping 28% at the consumer level. That's hardly leaves anything left for the fruit bowl, it seems.